February 15, 2006

Everyday Revival and Reformation

1505 page14 capne holiday season we each received a book from the Worship Committee here at the General Conference, along with a note recommending that we fast and pray on January 1 for revival and reformation in our lives. When the actual day arrived, however, my church was having a potluck luncheon, and I didn?t fast, nor did I pray that prayer.

Fasting and praying for revival and reformation in my life remained a resolution for the new year--on my ?to do? list. But the term revival and reformation had for me the connotation of altar calls, guilt, tears, and an intense searching in inspired writings for things I was doing wrong and should change. Even though there?s nothing wrong with any one of those things, taken together they seemed very angst-producing and time-consuming. What should I put on the ?to do? list of my everyday life?

I decided to give some thought to the denotation of the individual terms revival and reformation instead of reacting to them as a phrase. That was something positive to do.

Take, for instance, revive. I knew that its Latin root, -viv, meant life--vivacious, vivify, vivir. That reminded me of Jesus? words ?I am the way, and the truth, and the life? (John 14:6).

Reform had the root -form, the shape of something. Re-form means reshaped. Another new connotation presented itself. ?We are the clay, and You our potter? (Isa. 64:8).

1505 page14Merriam Webster?s Dictionary and Roget?s Thesaurus elaborated on the same ideas.

Revive means ?to restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state . . . become active or flourishing again . . . reinspire.?

Reform means ?to put or change into an improved form or condition.? The thesaurus added ?put or set straight, . . . a new start.?

With these new windows on the old phrase, I decided to take my search to Ellen White?s inspired writings. I knew that the statements I found might still have for me the connotations I had started out with. But I?d try to look at them through the new lens of my word study.

What I actually found was a magnificent description and analysis of revival and reformation I had never read before. Ellen White wrote: ?A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival

and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from the spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.?1

I had never doubted that ?a revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work.?2 But how do I turn this work over to the Spirit? And, again, what should I put on my daily to do list?

The phrase ?very first work? reminded me of Ellen White?s advice in the book Steps to Christ that we should ?consecrate [ourselves] to God in the morning; make this [our] very first work.?3 A specific prayer is outlined next, guiding us in turning our complete to-do list over to the Lord each day. ?Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.?4

No drama or guilt. After all, ?A life in Christ is a life of restfulness,? wrote Ellen White. ?There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there should be an abiding, peaceful trust.?5 Trust, like that of a child. Jesus said, ?Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven? (Matt. 18:3).

So, what did I find to put on my everyday to-do list that will lead to revival and reformation in my life? Say my morning prayer of complete consecration as my very first work, and then maybe sing ?A Child?s Prayer for Guidance,? which we know today as the hymn ?Father, Lead Me Day by Day.?6

I can do that!

1 Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1902.
2 Ibid., Mar. 22, 1887.
3 Steps to Christ, p. 70.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, no. 482.

Kathy Beagles edits junior, earliteen, and youth Bible study guides for the General Conference Sabbath School Department.